IRCINIA FEBRUARY 2010 FOUR DOLLARS S'^: I H'^' Bob Duncan Executive Director This job takes me across Vir- ginia on a regular basis. During my travels I am reminded again and again of the impor- tance of private landowners to our mission. Approximately 87% of the entire land base in the state- — close to 23 million acres — is held in private owner- ship, and many of our wildest fauna live on these lands. Private landowners have been crucial to the success of many Department initiatives since our earliest days, of course. From deer management to wetlands restora- tion (featured inside), sportsmen and other wildlife supporters have stepped up to assist us in our efforts. Your cooperation has meant that we now have one of the strongest herds of whitetails this side of the Mississippi. Your willingness to apply research on warm season grasses has provided much-needed habitat to upland birds and other wild animals that rely upon their cover to survive. Partnering with others, you have helped the state reclaim sv^;aths of marshland and important buffers along our waterways, feeding and sheltering migrating birds and ducks, fish, and many other species that use such travel corridors. As you well know, these are the nursery grounds and therefore the future of water- fowl hunting in the state. The beneficiaries of your stewardship ac- tions include the top three game species in Virginia: deer, turkey, and bear. Success can be measured in a number of ways, but those who are watching will applaud the robust hunting seasons of the past five years. The year 2008, in fact, was our strongest harvest ever for whitetails; 94% of them were taken on private property. Similar experience holds for turkey and black bear, where roughly 94% of the fall turkey harvest and 57% of the annual bear harvest occurred on private land. Citizens have played a key role in stewarding our nongame species as well. I think about the number of bald eagle nests lo- cated on private property, along rivers and other waterfront perches. A number of threat- ened species — the red-cockad- ed woodpecker, for example — would not be in Virginia today without the protection afforded their colonies, which exist almost solely on private lands. You are the reason it has survived here. Just as basic as this custodial role is the link that you serve to the continued viability of hunting. We know from research that the first hunting experience often occurs on pri- vate land. Through the mentoring by sea- soned hunters to their children and grand- children, to neighbors and to friends, many a young hunter has been introduced to the sport, and that behavior carries forward to the next generation. Tee Clarksons feature (p. 12) reminds us of the familiar refrain: Hunters are made, not born. Access to hunt- ing has always been made possible through the generosity of landowners willing to share their resource base, their experience, their patience, and their skills afield. And hunting can only continue if this continues. So, it is with deep respect and apprecia- tion that I extend this tribute to all private landowners who have played a role in the health of game and nongame species, who have provided access to the land and rolled up their sleeves doing the hard work of habitat restoration, and who have kept our rich tradi- tion of hunting very much alive in Virginia. Thank you. Mission Statement To manage Virginia's wildlife and inland fish to maintain optimum populations of all species to serve the needs of the Commonwealth: To provide opportunity for all to enjoy wildlife, inland fish, boating and related outdoor recreation and to work diligently to safeguard the rights of the people to hunt, fish and harvest game as provided for in the Constitution of Virginia; To promote safety for persons and property in connection with boating, hunting and fishing; To provide educational outreach programs and materials that foster an awareness of and appreciation for Virginia's fish and wildlife resources, their habitats, and hunting, fishing, and boating opportunities. Dedicated to ttie Conservation of Virginia's Wildlife and Natural Resources VOLUME 71 NUMBER 2 Commonwealth of Virginia Bob McDonnell, Governor HUNTING a FISHING LICENSE FEES Subsidized this publication Secretary of Natural Resources Douglas W. Domenech Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Bob Duncan Executive Director Members of the Board Ward Burton, Halifax Brent Clarke, Fairfax Sherry Smith Crumley, Buchanan William T. Greer, Jr., Norfolk James W. Hazel, Oakton Randy J. Kozuch, Alexandria John W. Montgomery, Jr., Sandston Mary Louisa Pollard, Irvington Richard E. Railey, Courtland F. Scott Reed, Jr., Manakin-Sabot Charles S. Yates, Cleveland Magazine Staff Sally Mills, Editor Lee Walker, Ron Messina, Julia Dixon, Contributing Editors Emily Pels, Art Director Carol Kushlak, Production Manager Jaime Sajecki, Staff Contributor Color separations and printing by Progress Printing, Lynchburg, VA. Virginia Wildlife (ISSN 0042 6792) is published monthly by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Send all subscription orders and address changes to Virginia WiUllife, P. O. Box 7477, Red Oak, Iowa 51591-0477. Address all other com- munications concerning this publication to Wr^iiii'iJ WiMlifc, P. O. Box 11104, 4010 West Broad Street, Richmond, Virginia 23230-1104. Subscription rates are $12.95 for one year, $23.95 for two years; $4.00 per each back issue, subject to availabilit)'. Out-of- country rate is $24.95 for one year and must be paid in U.S. funds. No refunds for amounts less than $5.00. To subscribe, call toll-free (800) 710-9369. POSTMASTER: Please send all address changes to Virginia Wildlife, P.O. Box 7477, Red Oak, Iowa 51591-0477. Postage for periodicals paid at Richmond, Virginia and additional entry offices. Copyright 2010 by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. All rights reserved. The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries shall afford to all persons an equal access to Department programs and facilities without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, disability, sex, or age. If you believe that you have been discriminat- ed against in any program, activity or facility, please write to; Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, ATTN; Compliance Officer, (4010 West Broad Street.) P O. Box 11104, Richmond, Virginia 23230-1104. "This publication is intended for general informa- tional purposes only and every effort has been made to ensure its accuracy. The information con- tained herein does not serve as a legal representa- tion of fish and wildlife laws or regulations. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries does not assume responsibility for any change in dates, regulations, or information that may occur after publication." About the cover: Of the three bear species in North America, only black bears (Ursiis americanus) live in Vir- ginia. They are shy and secretive, and incredibly adaptable to a world of extremes. Learn how one community is taking the lead in learning how to coexist with these intelligent mammals (p. 28). ©Bill Lea Highland County's Wild Treasures by Ken Perrotte The Puffenbargers have built a fine reputation among hunters and other farm visitors. The Restoration of ^ a Grand River by Beth Hester Bringing back wetlands along the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River. M A Family Affair ,'byTeeClarkson Magazine ■ Subscriptions For subscriptions, circulation problems and address changes call: 1-800-710-9369 12 issues for $12.95 24 issues for $23.95 Rabbit hunting and life lessons go hand in hand. March of the Salamanders by Suzanne Ramsey Students document the breeding habits of an amphibian, by night. Poor Man's Tarpon by Marc N. McGlade Come, celebrate the late winter migration of shad through our tidal rivers. j_ Joe and His Muskies by Bruce Ingram Fisheries biologist Joe Williams reminds us that sometimes quality trumps quantity. Virginia's First Bear Smart Community by Jaime L. Sajecki Wintergreen residents share their bear story. Journal Off the Leash Dining In Photo Tips ^^fc ■-,^1^1 K"^' viL'H (OKen Perrotte byKenPerrotte Morning's light struggled to penetrate the fog shroud- ing the mountainside hol- lows above Dianne and Mike Puffen- barger's Highland County farm. Heavy dew dripped steadily from the trees. Five deer, one a buck sprouting thick new antler bases, emerged like apparitions through the mist. They carefully picked their way along a hillside trail, unaware of the humans sitting motionless just 40 yards away. Thick fog can be both blessing and curse to turkey hunters. Highland Coil For hunters hearing, or inducing, a gobble from a roosted tom turkey, it means an excellent opportunity to stealthily slip in close to the bird. A well executed hen call either just be- fore or after the gobbler flies to the ground often entices him within shotgun range. Heavy air, though, often means birds don't do too much talking from their roost. The fog refused to lift and after nearly two hours of sitting quietly and making a variety of yelps, clucks, and cuts with assorted turkey calls, Puffenbarger and his daughter. Sarah, pulled down their face masks and stood. Sarah, age 20, adjusted her long, camouflaged skirt and helped her fa- ther tuck his gear into the back of his turkey hunting vest. Skirts and dress- es aren't considered traditional turkey hunting garb for most young ladies, but for the Puffenbarger girls the attire comes with belonging to the Beachy Mennonite Order. "Let's go get a snack," Puffen- barger said. A "snack" with Maple Tree Out- doors, Puffenbarger 's name for his VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com ©Bill Lea nty's WM Treasures guiding business, typically includes something with maple symp in it. Dianne Puffenbarger's family has been making maple syrup for gen- erations. Her mother was among the first organizers of the Highland Maple Festival, now in its 52nd year. Maple syrup manufacturing is typically seen as a northern climate affair. Mike Puffenbarger said his Mike Puffenbarger and daughter Sarah pause while quietly maneuvering across a forested hillside above their family farm. TrCp hJotey for mxyre^(xboutMcipletree^Outdoxyry, iioe/ www.mx^letreexytAtdoory.ccnn/ orcaU/5W-^68-2682. PiA:ffeyibarger roiAJUA/\elyhu^c^hxyo^c^mxMy^ cnAt- dx>or- related^ SrhowycLround/ Vir- CLVidyfLihing^, he^dXiplayyand/^My yxuce^and/vnccple/yyrup CtBmy, turkey (M\d/more/. ^M ll^ie/Puffeydx^u^^eryhxMz&'hiAUtay ^ aymfcnirCble/hiM^khou&e/on/the^ fcu^m/t(>axxx>inmxydatBhay\tery wctnting^tiy-^pendythe^ nC^ht. J# PiAffavibarger can/!^hootvLde<y-of ^ moitofhCyhunty. ^ TJie^AUeghe^^ Highlands where/ the/Puffenhcu^geryUveyore/harehy 30 yndey, a^the/crcrw fliey, fronu We&tVirgdyniay. H ighlcondy County' y y:^niomxyiAv\tuln/vcMey iyhl^h/iyv eleK/cctixyyv. The/cxyixrcty i^yy\v\£Wmjey oMed/'Vu^gdA^uxx^ySwit^ferlandy. " Ity rotg^ed^ mxnAM\talvwyportKcu^d/- wood^- covered/ ridges ctnd/hxMowy AatumA^^fblUig^ccu^he/irpectacu^ lor cL-nd/the/ county hoiMtyo/ VLhranthuMyneirywCth/''leaf peeper" touriiity. l%e/hjeadM)(Xberyofhotiv the/J<Mne^arui'PotcnnaorC\'erycu'e/ locatedy i^n/the/ county. ^jf T%e/HCghlc^nd^Mccple/feittvcd/Cy h£ld'th£/i,e<xrnd/(xnd/thArd/\veeky- endy in/March'. See/ www.highlarui/ county.org/ynccple/.htm/ formxyre/ inforwicctvon/. research shows their maple sugaring operation is the farthest south in North America; hence the name Southernmost Maple. Besides being a guide, maple syrup manufacturer, caterer, and seeming all-round entrepreneur, Puffenbarger is also pastor of the Set Free Mennonite Church in Bolar. The spacious dining building on the fami- ly's Southernmost Maple farm is a customary meeting area for the con- gregation. The 400-acre farm, about a 30- minute drive north of Lake Moomaw and midway between Monterey and Warm Springs, is a "family farm" in the truest sense. Established by Di- anne Puffenbarger's family several generations ago, she and Mike began taking over primary farming respon- sibilities in the late 1980s when her fa- ther became ill. Eldest daughter Melissa and her husband, Eddie, now raise sheep, cows, and turkeys. Sarah cares for all the animals (sheep, goats, and rabbits) in the pens, while 17-year-old Leah tends the dogs and also serves as teacher for her preco- cious and well-studied 6-year-old niece, Abigail. All help take care of Melissa's other daughter, Amelia, age 2. Mike Puffenbarger taught all of his girls to hunt deer and turkey. Leah took a big gobbler last spring. Sarah helps her father with turkey guiding chores. Despite best efforts last year to get a late season bird of her own, a mature tom never strutted into gun range. Even young Abigail got into the act. Sitting with her grandfather in a ground blind, she pulled the trigger on her first turkey. "It weighed 15 and a half pounds and had a 5 and a half inch beard," she proudly nod- ded. "She's a big part of granddaddy's life," Puffenbarger smiled. "Abigail has a lot of role models with her aunts and her mom," Puffenbarger said, adding, "Did I tell you she took a deer with a crossbow, with grand- daddy's help, when she was four and a half years old?" His daughters have become steadfast trophy hunters when it comes to deer, much to their father's chagrin. "The other kids have almost got- ten too picky, mainly with deer. I tell them, 'Look, we're going to have to shoot something eventually,'" he added. A smokehouse adjacent to the small store full of maple-related products carries residual aromas of their catering business, spawned from a pork roast dinner at a church picnic a dozen years ago. Today, the whole family tries to keep pace with the demand for their pork barbecue, chicken and beef brisket meals, espe- cially popular at gatherings of out- door organizations such as the Na- tional Wild Turkey Federation and the Quality Deer Mcuiagement Asso- ciation. Puffenbarger also makes his own "Puff's" barbecue sauce, featuring among the ingredients — what else — maple syrup. Abigail tends to the rabbits, one of many daily chores to be performed. I VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ wvwv.HuntFishVA com wild Treasures Puffenbarger fishes from a spacious pontoon boat on 2,500-acre Lake Moomaw, the impoundment created from the Jackson River a few decades ago. The lake, known for its trout, yellow perch, and bass fishing, is re- markably pristine compared to many Virginia impoundments that have steadily seen nearly every inch of wa- terfront consumed with homes and boat docks. After lowering his trolling motor and fishing lines baited with min- nows, Puffenbarger swept his arm toward the forested hillsides and asked, "Look around you. What do you see?" "You don't see lakes like this any- more except in places like Maine and Canada. The U.S. Forest Service land and Gathright Wildlife Management Area protect Lake Moomaw," he said. Puffenbarger takes a holistic ap- proach to the acreage he manages. Besides creating a haven for deer and turkey with targeted high protein and mineral food plots, he also wants to transform several parcels into habitat better suited for grouse and quail. "I want to take it out of pasture for cattle and fence it to keep the habitat beneficial for birds. I'm working with the Farm Service Agency and hoping to partner with Quail Unlimited," he explained. Puffenbarger is optimistic the habitat enhancements will work, not- ing that he introduced 400 quail to the property last year and some birds had successful hatches. His efforts harken back to Aldo Leopold, often called the father of modem conserva- tion, who observed, "Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land." For the Puffenbargers of the Al- legheny Highlands, tuning their piece of paradise to the rhythms of Virginia's seasons is a way of life. Dianne Puffenbarger arranges maple syrup on the shelves of their store, where a variety of products like barbecue sauce and pancake mix are sold. n Ken Pcrrottc is a King George County resident and the outdoors cohinmist for Fredericksburg's Free Lance-Star nezvspnper. Mike Puffenbarger baits a hook while fishing on pristine Lake Moomaw, renowned for its superb trout, yellow perch, and bass fishing. FEBRUARY 2010 Partnership at Money Point Aims to Make the Elizabeth River Swimmable and Fishable by 2020 The Restoran N by Beth Hester amed after Princess Eliza- beth Stuart, daughter of King James I, the Elizabeth River is Virginia's historic tidal estu- ary. Situated at the southernmost end of the Chesapeake Bay, its three intri- cate branches reach deeply into lower Tidewater. It's not quite a river in the traditional sense, as the dy- namics of inter-tidal estuaries are dif- ferent. Old Man River may just keep rolling along, but the waters of the Elizabeth don't have a 'current' per se; they ebb and flow along with the tidal ranges which, in turn, impact the river's freshwater in-flow and salinity. The effect has been likened to that of water in a bathtub, where the water sloshes back and forth. Early explorers were startled by the richness of the river's ecosystem. Author Amy Yarsinski, in her book on the history of the Elizabeth The construction of wetland rock sill. Courtesy of ERP. River, reports that, "The Ostrea vir- ginica — the oyster — was enjoyed by the native Americans long before they became known to the English settlers who came to live along the banks of the Elizabeth. These earliest residents knew mussels, sturgeon, stingray, mullet, eel, catfish, perch, blue crab, toadfish, herring, shad, trout, flounder, and bass." ,.--. .^-i^ / Captain John Smith found __,^AccoMAci^)*>< that the river and its environs formed an ideal natural harbor, and over time, the river was dredged to create port facilities. However, by the 1800s, the very geo- graphical characteristics that made the Elizabeth River region so amenable to trade also led to its degradation. Elizabeth River VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com on of a Grand River Above: An aerial view of Money Point site. Courtesy of ERP. Below: An example of toxic deposits along the river's edge Over the ensuing years, and prior to the Clean Water Act, dredging and filling to accommodate a thriving in- dustrial base, shipyard, and military facilities led to a fifty percent loss of wetland areas. As the population grew and commerce increased, water quality began a steady, spiraling de- cline. Stormwater runoff, erosion, sewage, PCBs from transformers and fire-retardants, PAHs from lumber treatment plants, and other industrial poisons lead to deformed, cancerous, and contaminated fish and shellfish. These toxins, along with bacteria and excess nutrients, reduced the quality and variety of the river's aquatic life. Some 'hotspots' along the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth are virtual dead zones. Even the modest mummichog, a small, min- now-like fish legendary for surviving in polluted waterways, is feeling the pinch. Thankfully, not all of the Southern Branch is an aquatic ghost town; there are still some very productive areas with natural or restored wet- lands. To get a feel for the big picture, FEBRUARY 2010 you have to think of the river as a mo- saic of various zones: dead zones, low-quality habitat, and high-quality habitat. For example, once you go under the High Rise Bridge, you can find stands of mature trees and acres of wetlands with little to no contami- nation on the river bottom. In these less impacted areas, the locals chick- en-neck for blue crabs, kayak, and water-ski, and relentless anglers enjoy some fairly spectacular catches. But loss of wetland habitat along other sections of the river continues to negatively impact many forms of wildlife, including shore birds and waterfowl. Wh luarewe sovaluaDl tlandi e-? Wetlands are among the most pro- ductive ecosystems on the planet: They curb erosion, support many dif- ferent plant and animal species, help reduce flooding, and act as natural water filters, absorbing impurities as the water runs through. Wetland areas are generally comprised of three parts: • Uplancls: These are the higher, dry lands that surround a wet- land. Healthy upland areas sup- port trees, grasses, and many other types of vegetation. Along with the riparian zone, uplands act as buffers because the deep root systems of trees and other vegetation help stabilize the soil and provide erosion control. • Tne Riparian Zone: This transition area — the strip of land between the uplands and the acjuatic zone — generally hosts a diverse group of plants which, in turn, support small mammals, birds, butterflies, bees, and other insects. • Tne Aquatic Zone: The wet, watery region of the shore envi- ronment generally below the high-water mark supports rushes, cattail, and many different acjuatic plants. Importantly, the aquatic zone provides spawning area and nursery habitat for a variety of species. •^ . M Continued degradation of the Eliza- beth's wetlands and waters could signal tiie death of one of Virginia's most valued waterways, but there is some very good news. The river is getting cleaned up, thanks to the on- going efforts of the Elizabeth River Project (ERP), a non-profit, grass- roots organization dedicated to restoring the river's water quality through partnerships, while affirm- ing its economic value as a port. In- corporated in 1993, the ERP already has numerous success stories to share. The organization led by Execti- tive Director Marjorie Mayfield Jack- son has become a shining example for others who seek to build commu- nity coalitions and encourage ecolog- ical stewardship. One of those stewardship projects has been funded through a Virgima Migratory Waterfowl Stamp grant, and brings the Department (DGIF) together with the ERP to help restore one of the river's most infamous dead zones: Money Point. It's a heav- ily industrialized bend in the South- ern Branch, home to the creosote- laden lumber treatment facilities of yesteryear. This toxic, tarry substance leacheci into the Elizabeth by various means, leaving behind a legacy of contaminated sediment on the river's bottom; a sticky, black, nox- ious goo. But now, with the Depart- ment's help, the goo is going ... going ... gone. David Norris leads wetlands proj- ects for the Department and knows firsthand the history and disappear- ance of these critical ecosystems throughout Virgima for generations. When asked about Money Point, he noted that the project is part of a much larger effort by the agency to increase habitat for all wildlife species native to Virginia. Norris added, "The Duck Stamp grant was a natural fit, as the stamp was mandated by the Virginia Gener- al Assembly in 2005 to protect, pre- serve, restore, enhance, and develop waterfowl habitat in Virginia. We were able to give the restoration proj- ect $30,000 from the Duck Stamp View of the area prior to planting, and after wetland and buffer restoration (p. 11). fund, and we worked with Joe Rieger, the ERP's director of wet- lands restoration, to find the best ways to restore the upland and ripar- ian portions of the site." Specifically, the goo-contaminat- ed sediment from Money Point is dredged from the river bottom and trucked out to one of two sites for treatment and safe disposal. In addi- tion to cleaning up the toxic mess, the Elizabeth River Project has initiated ongoing plans to avoid recontamina- tion of the river through prudent stormwater and drainage manage- ment of the upland areas surround- ing the river. The upland restoration included 2,100 plants consisting of over 15 species of native hardwoods. Upon completion, the habitat will offer 5.65 acres of wetland and up- land buffer, and provide much-need- ed habitat for ducks, wading birds, and songbirds in an otherwise urban, industrialized landscape. The upland areas were re-graded, and over four acres of the invasive reed, Phragmites, were eradicated. Dr. Julie Ball shows off 7-lb. trout caught near the hot ditch. VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.cotn Soil from the grading was placed into a large bermed area which, along with surrounding areas, was re- forested. Again, much of this upland restoration was funded through Vir- ginia's duck stamp program. In addition to the Department's efforts and work by many stakehold- ers and corporate entities involved in this historic cleanup, scientists from around Virginia lent their expertise to the project: Walter Priest from the NOAA Restoration Center devel- oped the conceptual design and as- sisted during construction; Jim Ca- hoon of Bay Environmental was con- struction manager for the project; DGIF's David Norhs(L) accepts award from Joe Rieger (C). Photos courtesy of ERP. Miklos Lestyan, City of Chesapeake Arborist, assisted with species selec- tion. In a recent iriterview, Joe Rieger, ERP's point person, shared how he thinks other communities might leani from Money Point about coali- tion building: "You can get more ac- complished through a non-con- frontational, collaborative approach. Finger pointing isn't generally pro- ductive, and you can maximize re- sources when all of the groups work together. The key is to incorporate the whole community into the process, and have them become part of the planning and implementation. In the end, it results in tangible out- comes about which everyone can be proud." When asked how we'll be able to gauge the success of the Money Point portion of the "Swimmable and Fish- able by 2020" river cleanup plan, Joe said it all comes down to the healtli of the unassuming mummichog. Named after an American Indian word for "going in crowds," it's an extremely important food source for larger fish, and wading and sea birds. It also happens to be a good indicator species — telling the story of a given waterway's condition. Rieger ex- plained tliat mummichogs live their entire lives within a 50-yard area, so their health reflects the health of their immediate surroundings. Working from a research design by NOAA- Sea Grant scientists, mummichog samples were taken before the proj- ect began, and the site will be re-sam- pled in two to three years to assess post-cleanup cancer levels in the fish. If the Elizabeth River Project's ini- tiatives stay on schedule, by 2020 swimmers, anglers, crabbers, and mummichogs all across southeast- ern Virginia will be breathing sighs of relief. Z BctJi Hester is a writer mid freelance photogra- pher from Portsmouth. Her passions indude reading, shooting, kayaking, fisliing, tying salt- water flies, and tending her herb garden. Resources: • For more about the Elizabeth River Project's programs, and how you can help, visit their highly educational website: www.elizabetliriver.org • TJic Elizabeth River: Virginia's Re- markable River Princess by Amy Waters Yarsinski. The History Press, 843-577-5971 Famfy Important life lessons are shared among three generations while hunting afield. story by Tee Clarkson' photos by Dwiglit Dyke hether it involves a holi- day, meeting future in- laws for the first time, or a wedding, the family gathering has been much maligned over the years — particularly on television and in the movies. Usually it is for comedic effect, and for the most part. the message remains the same in the end: There is nothing stronger, more powerful, and more important than blood. During times when some of the 'old' ways are giving in to the 'new', maintaining outdoor, family tradi- tions like hunting becomes even more important. Three generations of Hickses certainly understand this concept as they relish weekly family reunions from the beginning of deer season in mid-November until the end of rabbit season in February. They are not alone. Throughout the state, hunting brings together gener- ations, including families, in a way that almost no other activity can. I joined Will Hicks, his two sons Connor (8) and Cole (10), and his fa- ther for a rabbit hunt on a crisp, Feb- ruary morning. We met at a gas sta- tion off Route 360 in King and Queen County. Relatives and friends piled out of vehicles and exchanged good- 1^ Bt 'W^ Abovt: IVill Hicks teaches his son proper gun safety. For Will, as it should be for all hunters, safety is the first priority when it comes to hunting. Left: Perhaps the most important lesson passed down through the generations is that hunting is not about the kill, but more about enjoying time outside with family and friends and respecting the wild environments that harbor such experiences. natured insults and ribbings whose specifics were lost on an outsider, but for the most part I got the point. Everyone was smiling and laughing. After a brief stop to pick up a few es- sentials — Mountain Dews, Gator- ades, BBQ chips, and breakfast sand- wiches — the caravan pulled out of the lot and down the road to a farm where they would hunt rabbits. - Unfortunately, not all hunters have the opportunity to share a blind or a stand with a parent, and even fewer with a grandparent. My grand- father passed away before I was born, so I have only an oral history of what FEBRUARY 2010 he was like, and most of those stories my father told me while we were hunting or fishing. An Episcopal minister, my grandfather's favorite escape was fly fishing for brook trout in the mountains of North Carolina, but that's not to say he didn't enjoy a deer hunt from time to time. He was never the same, my father says, after returning from World War II, where he read the last rights to many a dying young man. I can only imagine and hope that he found his much- needed solace during his days in the woods. I wish I had hgen able to share just one with him. l"*'* K 13 In twenty minutes, our caravan turns off the pavement, down a dirt road, and through a gate before park- ing in a small field. Mr. Hicks, or "Bulldog," as family and friends refer to him, still bounds with energy at 67, and is ready to go before most everyone else has even gotten out of their vehicles. I cannot help but be en- vious, watching as Will helps his two boys get organized and the three gen- erations of Hickses grab guns and shells and set out to hunt. Within minutes, John Wayne Hicks, a cousin, lets the dogs loose and the hunt is on. Connor quickly sets out in the woods with Bulldog while Cole sticks with his father along the road. Only a few minutes pass before the dogs jump a rabbit, chasing it across the road and back through the woods where Bulldog and Connor wait. En- ergy mounts in the air as the dogs get louder. Will and Cole take off up the road and 11 -year-old Ashley Stone stands ready with her father, Pat, along the edge of a cutover. Shortly, though, the excitemeiit wanes as it becomes evident that this particular rabbit has managed to dodge the dogs and disappear unharmed. ^^^rig^ More and more young ladies are taking up tiie sport of hunting. Pat Stone started bringing his daughters, Ashley and Maddie, when they were around 8 years old. Pat started hunting with the Hicks family when he and Will were kids, and naturally, when his daughters were old enough he started bringing them along. Ashley has been carry- ing a gun with ten-year-old sister Maddie, who is home with the flu, and her father since she was eight. If she is at all intimidated to be hunting with mostly boys, it does not show, and certainly the ten-point buck she killed last year cannot hurt. "Yeah... They don't like her too much," Pat says proudly, joking and bragging about the fact that Ashley killed the biggest buck among the i WE ^^^■%^ -^-f?! youngsters in the hunt club last year. "But honestly, there are more and more women getting into hunting. I started taking my girls and they loved it, so I kept taking them." When I ask Ashley her favorite part about hunting, I half-expect her to say something about the big buck she killed, but instead I discover her favorite thing is ". . . seeing stuff, and the dogs. I like the dogs," she says, smiling shyly. It does not take long before the dogs get on a fresh scent and have an- other rabbit up and running. Some rustling in the woods to the side of the road signals Connor and Bull- dog's emergence through a patch of thick briars. "See anything?" Will asks quickly. "Man, I had rabbits running all over the place. I just didn't have a dog to get on them." Bulldog smiles wryly. Connor looks at his father, shak- ing his head in the negative. Will laughs. Will, like his father did with him, and his father before that, start- ed bringing his boys out to walk around when they were only four or five years old. Like Ashlev and her sister, they dici not start shooting until they were eight. As far as safety is concerned for youngsters in the field, Will says, "My boys know there are no do-overs when it comes to guns." "There are lessons for life out here," Will acknowledges. "Lessons they can't learn the same way any- where else. It's about sportsmanship and camaraderie, but it's about so much else." Based on the fading sound of the dogs, the rabbit has am off through the cutover where Daniel Hicks, an- other cousin, and his father, John Wayne, are waiting. The dogs are hot on the trail and everyone waits for a shot. "There's so much baci stuff kids can get into these days," Will contin- ues. "Hunting offers them something positive to get involved in. They say if you hunt with them early, you don't have to hunt for them later." Bullciog, perpetually on the ready, moseys over to the group with one eye always on the woods, and puts his arm around Cole. He grew up hunting with his grandfather in Louisa, Goochland, and Buckingham counties when he was a kid. As with many families, the hunting tradition for the Hickses extends as far back as anyone can trace. Finally a shot rings out from the cutover and the dogs get quiet. In a couple minutes, Daniel emerges holding a rabbit — the first of eleven they would kill this day. The kids take off down the road to check it out. Bulldog smiles. "It's all about havin' fun with the kids and grand- kids," he says. "All about getting to- gether and havin' fun." There is little doubt, the lumting tradition will continue in the Hicks family as it does in so many others in Virginia. Hopefully, there will still be wild places to hunt in the future for these boys now darting down a dirt road to look at a cousin's rabbit. With a little good fortune, both Connor and Cole will have the opportunity to walk the woods with their grandchil- dren someday recognizing, as Bull- dog does, that it's all about getting'jSjj^ together and havin' fun. U\ Tec CInrkson is an English teacher at Deep Run Higli School in Henrico Co. and runs Virginia Fishing Adventures, a fishing camp for kids: tsclarksoii&virgiuiafishnigadveniures.coin. "^ arch of the r« >^ t An ancient ritua I is documented by Sweet Briar students. 1-^ by Suzanne Ramsey Under cloak of darkness, they cross dangerous ter- rain. Up and down hills, around logs and rocks. Predators — barred owls, skunks, even unwitting size-9 Nikes — threaten their sur- vival as they crawl over wet leaves and finally, hopefully, make their way to the breeding pool. It was the "March of the Salaman- ders," and although Morgan Free- man did not narrate their slithery trek, the journey of the spotted sala- mander from the underground bur- rows of Guion Woods to the man- made Guion Pond was no less dra- matic. For the first time at Sweet Briar College, this breeding ritual was documented during early March by a research team of stu- dents and professors. Although students have studied the local salamanders for decades, a few years ago someone threw a curve ball at the little critters, neces- sitating a more in-depth study. In 2002, predatory mosquitofish were released into the pond, possibly by a well-intentioned fisherman or someone afraid of the spread of West Nile virus. "We are concerned that these fish and other predators may be eating so many juveniles that the popula- tion will decline," biology professor Linda Fink noted recently. "The study we're starting, and hope to continue for years, will give us a lot of information about the population. The specific question we hope to address is whether our population has a healthy mix of indi- viduals of all ages, or if it is an aging population because few or no juve- niles are escaping from the preda- tors in the pond." Black with neon yellow spots, the salamanders are about 8 inches long, including the tail. They are native to the Sweet Briar property, as well as the eastern United States and south- em Canada. The Guion Woods sala- manders are the only group that Fink is aware of on campus. ^ night light, shown here, helps those scanning the woodland trail detect movement. Mike Hayslett, adjunct professor of environmental science at Sweet Briar, has been studying wetlands and their inhabitants for 20 years. He believes this 'family' of salamanders has been breeding in Guion Pond for a half-century or more. "Unlike most amphibians that live two or three years," he said, "spotted salamanders can live to be 20 or 30. They spend about 360 days a year underground, eating earth- worms and bugs, and emerge on the first warm, rainy day of the year — the 'salamander rain' — to breed." Hayslett defined salamander rain as a cyclical event and said tliree con- ditions — rain, near-50-degree tem- peratures, and thunder — are usually present. "Some say it's an auditory cue," he said of the thunder. "The aimbles and vibration might be a cue to wake them up." Above ground, the salamanders' objective is equally primal. Biology professor Fink put it simply: "Once a year, they doodle over to the pond, breed for a week and come back." Ready, Set, Whoa Unfortunately, when you're dealiiig with Mother Nature, you're also on her time clock. The team, made up mostly of ecol- ogy students, had hoped to begin their research on Feb. 20. The timing was right, as salamander movement in this area usually begins in mid- February to early March and a chance of rain was in the weather forecast. "They have porous skin and are very susceptible to drying out. They need a high moisture content in the FEBRUARY 2010 .¥ •» ♦ ^m Salamanders breeding, above. Right; salamander egg mass. air," Hayslett emphasized, adding that some might travel as far as a half a mile to the pond, making dehydra- tion a viable threat. Add to that the fact that spotted salamanders aren't exactly speedy. "They're very slow," he said. "Not like skinks." It was after 6 p.m. in the Guion bi- ology lab when Fiiik gave the stu- dents — many clad in rain gear and rubber boots — their assignments. Some would be on "pit crews," gath- ering salamanders from around sheet metal fences the team had erect- ed in various woodland locations. According to Hayslett, salaman- ders aren't keen on climbing over large objects, so when they reach a solid fence or a log, they will turn left or right. In this case, after making the turn salamanders would fall into cof- fee cans full of leaf matter, buried strategically by students. Pit crew staffers would then scoop up the salamanders, deposit them into plastic baggies, and label the bags with time and location. Other students would act as "run- ners," transporting the creatures back and forth between the pit crews and the lab. Some would be "spot- ters," scanning the woodland trail for action and marking salamander sightings with surveyor's flags. In the lab, students and professors would process the salamanders — measuring, weighing, photograph- ing, and using the "Twitty" method to remove one of the animal's toes for future identification and chronology purposes. "You can tell the age of the sala- mander, like tree rings," Hayslett said. "We have the specific goal to ob- tain [and] preserve how stable this population of spotted salamanders might be. If it's composed mostly of old adults with little apparent recruit- ment, as evidenced by younger adults, then we have a population of critters that needs help." After processing, the runners would take the salamanders back to where they were found and point them toward the pond. "Kiss them on the head and wish them fond farewell," Fink said, eliciting a groan from Hayslett. "No," he said. "Don't kiss them on the head." Assignments made, the students waited in the lab, headlamps perched on their heads. But still, there was no rain. So Fink and Hayslett suspended the studv and led the group on a brief tour of Guion Woods, pointing out the fences and demonstrating collec- tion methods. As for the postponement, Hayslett just shrugged "If we hit it, it's one of the coolest phenomena," he said. VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com Raining Salamanders The salamander rain began on March 1, first as a misty morning drizzle and progressing to a soaking rain by mid- night. By 10 p.m. the woods around Guion Pond were slicker than, well, a spotted salamander. The team met in the lab at 6:30 p.m., and within an hour the first salamanders were spotted. By 7:30, student Jenny Walkiewicz said the sunken coffee cans at one fence line had halted the forward progression of about 50 specimens. "They were exciting," she said, adding what had become a common opinion. "They are very cute." Each specimen collected is measured and weighed for the logbook. At about 9:30 p.m. Doreen McVeigh was on the trail working as a spotter. She estimates she found one every three minutes. "They were scurrying along the path pretty quickly," she said, countering Hayslett's claim that salamanders are slow. "They're pretty quick when they want to be." By 10 p.m. the team had counted more than 200. In the lab, baggies of yellow polka-dotted amphibians mo- nopolized the end of one table as stu- dents and professors measured, weighed, and documented each one. Mud was everywhere — on boots, clothes, and trailing down the tiled hallway. Hayslett, dressed in a pink and green Sweet Briar T-shirt and match- ing green hat, said the results were FEBRUARY 2010 exceptional. "Tonight's success I at- tribute to the pink T-shirt," he said, jokingly. "I put on the T-shirt and got the call." By morning, approximately 575 salamanders had been encountered, 470 of which were hand-examined in the lab. The male-to-female ratio was 3-to-l, and the largest recorded was a 42.5-gram female. "We saw some ex- tremely large individuals, suggesting a very stable and old population," Hayslett said. "But we also were delighted to see many smaller, younger adults, sug- gesting that sufficient recruitment is occurring. This is, of course, prior to number crunching and summer in- vestigations into this matter." There were other surprises during the night, too, including spotless sala- manders and aiiimals with bifurcat- ed and trifurcated toes. Salamander No. 201 had a thin, deformed tail. Hayslett attributed the abnormality to malnutrition, prompting one thoughtful student to ask, "Can I give him a cricket?" The team also was taken aback to see many salamanders emerge from burrows adjacent to the pond, and not from deeper in the forest as pre- dicted. Standing in ankle-deep mud around midnight, Hayslett pointed to an area near the pond's spillway where the creek bed sunk under- ground. He said he'd seen salamanders pouring from the hole like water from a well — "dozens and dozens" of them. "It's humbling to be out- smarted by 8-inch amphibians," he said later. Equally surprising, some sala- manders didn't go to Guion Pond at all, and opted to breed in a cove on the eastern side of the Upper Lake. "I had a hunch that some might go to the Upper Lake," Hayslett said, adding that he'd set a few basket traps just in case. "Possibly another two dozen sala- manders are residing in that northern extreme of Guion Woods and instead of hiking to the pond, which is satu- rated with animals, they go down the slope to the lake." After laying their eggs, the adult salamanders will reti,irn home with the next rain, and it'll be mid-sum- mer before babies emerge from the pond and make tlieir way into Guion Woods. In the meantime, Hayslett, Fink, and their team have lots of work to do: analyzing data, planning future studies, and commg up with a conservation plan. "It was exhausting," Hayslett said a couple of days later. "But it was a sensational experience and greatly exceeded my expectations. [It was] the best 'big night' experience I've seen since 1998, and I was delighted that the students got to experience this natural phenomenon, especially after we built up their anticipation so. Whew, I'm relieved." D Suzanne Rninsci/ lives and luritcs in Lynchburg, Virginia. 19 ^ Wm \j _ Virginia's springtime tidal run of hickory and American shad should not he missed. photos and story byMarcN.McGlade KYou can set your watch by it. *' Every year it's the same. March Madness is to college hoops what the shad run is to anglers in eastern Virginia. Hickory and American shad invade the common- wealth's tidal rivers each spring, and many refer to them as "poor man's tarpon." Well, let's discount any ref- erence to poor. These fish species are simply awesome. With a big motor and a feisty atti- tude, hickories and Americans are true fighters. Hickory shad leap like an all-star basketball player with a se- rious vertical, while American shad are more prone to buUdogging when hooked. Therefore, the comparison to tar- pon is right on target, but not the "poor" part. For those looking to in- terest kids or others that do not ven- ture into the sport of fishing very often, March and April would be the time to pounce. When the run is on, even a newcomer can become addict- ed to fishing. Richmond fly angler Henry Thedieck decides on the right fly to fool shad in the James River. VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com Both species have monikers. The American shad (Alosa sapidissima) also answers to white shad, Atlantic shad, and common shad. American shad have a silvery body and their back varies from greenish to dark blue. A row of dark spots highlights their sides. Spots on their "shoul- ders" are more noticeable, but usual- ly only one large spot is observed. The lower jaw does not extend past the upper. Their bellies have sharp, saw-like scales, and they have a deeply forked tail. American shad are significantly larger than hickory shad. They can at- tain lengths of 30 inches, which is a real bruiser. They are considered the tastiest and once fed American Indi- ans and settlers. ^^^^^ Below: Hickory shad are fast, leap-when- hooked hard fighters, and will put a smile on all anglers' faces. Right: Teaching a child to fish during the shad run is sure to leave a lasting impression. FEBRUARY 2010 21 \ A River Rows Through It • For fisheries information, to view the Shad Cam (an underwater camera at Bosher Dam and Fish- way), or to learn about the fish- passage program and shad restoration efforts, visit online at www.HuntFishVA.com. • In an effort to reintroduce and en- hance American shad numbers, the Department began a restora- tion program in 1992 that contin- ues today. Annual shad fry stock- ings occur in the James, Potomac, Rappahannock, and Pamunkey rivers. • Catching American and hickory shad above the fall line in Virginia rivers is strictly a catch-and-re- lease deal. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission sets the creel and length limits below the fall line in tidal rivers of the Chesapeake Bay. Always check current regulations before shad fishing at wwwmrc.state.va.us. • Prime boat-launching ramps for the shad run include Ancarrow's Landing (Richmond) for the James River and City Dock (Fred- ericksburg) for the Rappahan- nock River. These awesome specimens histor- ically spawned in virtually every ac- cessible river and tributary along the Atlantic coast from Canada to Flori- da. However, blockage on spawning rivers by dams and other impedi- ments, degradation of water quality, and overfishing depleted their stocks. American shad are anadromous fish, spend the majority of their lives at sea, and only enter fresh water in the spring to spawn. They are also river-specific, meaning each major river along the Atlantic coast appears to have a discrete spawning stock, and adults return to their natal river to spawn. Juveniles feed upon zooplankton and terrestrial insects. Adults feed on plankton, small crustaceans, and small fish while in the ocean. The ex- ception occurs during the upriver migration, during which time they do not feed. Spawning occurs in Vir- ginia in March and April. Depending on their geographical location, American shad may spawn once and die, or they may survive to make several spawning runs per life- time. 'Repeat' spawning in American shad differs according to latitude. Shad that spawn in rivers that are more northerly may survive to spawn several times; however, most American shad native to rivers south of Cape Fear, North Carolina, die after spawning. George Washington was the most prominent American shad fisher- man in the region, apparently land- ing thousands of pounds from the Potomac River. American shad were once highly sought in the Chesa- peake Bay — prized for their roe and fillets. Hickory shad (Alosa mediocris) are speed demons. These fast fish are also referred to as hickory jacks or tai- lor shad. Hickory shad are grayish- green in color along the back, with iridescent silver sides and belly. Hickory shad leap like an all-star basketball player with a serious ver- tical, while American shad are more prone to bulldogging when hooked. Hickories have a shoulder spot that may be followed by several faint spots along their sides. Like Ameri- can shad, they have sharp, saw-like scales along the belly. An identifying feature is that the lower jaw juts out farther than the upper jaw. At 12 to 20 inches, hickory shad are noticeably smaller than Ameri- can shad, but larger than alewife and blueback herring. They average 1 to 2 pounds, but 3 pounders are possible. Hickories are a schooling-type, migratory species. They too are anadromous fish, which spend the majority of their life at sea, but enter fresh water in the spring to spawn. Studies suggest that hickory shad migrate in a pattern similar to the coastal migrations of American shad, feeding on small fish, squid, fish eggs, small crabs, and pelagic crus- taceans. In the Chesapeake Bay re- gion, hickory shad spawning runs usually precede American shad runs and usually commence in March. The event lingers into May, although the fishing slows significantly. Colorful flies work wonders at catching American and hicl<ory shad from Virginia's tidal rivers in March and April. 22 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com iPi Henry Thedieck admires a chunky hickory shod caught from the James River. li Unlike American shad, 'repeat' spawning in hickory shad runs ap- pears to be common, but tends to vary among river systems. Biologists indicate that spawning takes place between dusk and midnight. After spawning, adults return to the Atlantic, but their distribution and movements in the ocean are es- sentially unknown. It is believeci that they follow a pattern similar to the coastal migrations of American shad, moving northward from the mid-At- lantic and Southeast after spawning, although recent studies suggest they prefer inshore habitat. Serious bass anglers need a giant Samsonite suitcase to hold their stuff. Nothing could be further from the tmth when shad fishing. Fly-rodding and conventional spimiing or spin- casting ec]|uipment are effective to catch hickories and Americans. FEBRUARY 2010 Shad darts are the norm for con- ventional casters. Spinning or spin- casting gear, spooled with 4- to 8- pound test line is all that is needed. Fly anglers can leverage 6- or 7-weight fly rods, use weighted flies, and sink-tip or full-sink line to score. Both species of shad can be finicky regarding color preference. Therefore, it's a good idea to carry several color combinations. Some tried-and-true colors patterns in- clude chartreuse and wliite, pink and white, green and red, chartreuse and red, and yellow and green. Of course, let the fish tell you what they want. The size and weight of the dart or fly can be paramount to success — or failure. Experiment with retrieve speeds and depth. It can change from day to day, from hour to hour, or even from tide to tide. Another lure to consider is a small spoon. Double rigs are common, either by using a spoon and shati dart, two shad darts, or two spoons. Experiment and bring a stash, as the river bottom can eat some of your offerings. The shad am occurs in tidal rivers up and ciown tlie Coastal Pleiin. Urban ein- glers should have high expectations in places where tidal rivers meet their re- spective fall lilies. On the James River, this occurs near downtown Richmond. On the Rappahannock, it takes place near Fredericksburg. The Potomac and Pamunkey rivers also have strong ains. Don't pass on this opportuiiity as it will be gone in a bLLrik of tlie eye. It's a great way to introduce a cHld or non-an- gler to the wonderful sport of fislting. Heck, if s even viable for working stiffs to spend their lunch hour swiiiging a few shad before heading back to work. Wrestling with a 1- to 3-pound Mcko- ry shad or a 5- to 8-potmd Americ£U"i shad is about as mudi fun as an angler caii have. If this is what "poor" man's tarpon means, believe you me, I'll take it! D Marc N. McGlade is a zoriter and piwtograpiier from Midlothian, wlio can't zoait for March to take 8-i/car-old son Justin back to tlie James River to oijoy softie sliad fislung. 23 by Bruce Ingram The sages claim there comes a time in every man's life when he reaches the proverbial fork in the road. For Roanoke's Joe Williams, a fisheries biologist who has been with the De- partment since 1980, that moment came about eight years ago. At the time, Williams and Virginia Tech graduate student Travis Brenden were engaged in a muskie study proj- ect for the DGIF and Virginia Tech. Before that project, Joe had been a dedicated river smallmouth angler. "One time when Travis and I were electro fishing for muskies, we caught one that weighed 39 pounds and measured 50^2 inches," recalled the biologist. "At the time, that fish would have been close to the state record. It was difficult to shock up so many big fish like that one and others and not become interested in fishing for them. "In 2003, the last year of the study, Travis and I began to fish together for muskies. I caught the first one be- tween us, and that fish had one of the transmitters that we had earlier placed in it. That fish was a stronger, fiercer battler than any smallmouth I had ever caught." Williams related that every time he ventures to the New River to study muskies, doing so is an act of sheer pleasure. He also emphasized that many people possess miscon- ceptions about this gamefish. "The biggest myth is that muskies eat a lot of smallmouths, which isn't true," said the biologist. "Where this myth likely came from is that when 24 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFi5hVA.com an angler reels in a bass, it looks like an injured creature to a muskie, which strikes the fish. That strike gets expanded into "muskies are eating all the smallmouths." "In fact, just about everybody who fishes for river smallmouths has a 'muskie attacked my smallie' story. But we pumped the stomachs of some 180 muskies and found only a few smallmouths, and they were all 5- to 6-inch fish." Another falsehood is that muskies have a negative impact on the forage base of smallmouths and other "pre- ferred" gamefish. Williams informed me that muskies mainly eat extreme- ly abundant shiners and other min- nows until they reach about two feet in length. From that point until they reach about 40 inches, these toothy predators consume mostly rock bass, sunfish, and suckers. "When they be- come really big," continued Williams, "they go mostly for suckers." A third and popular myth is that muskies are a fish of 10,000 casts. "It's true that muskies can be very difficult to fish for at times," said Williams. "But there are dedicated muskie fishermen, Alex Scott of McCoy comes quickly to mind, that regularly catch three or four per day As Joe Williams attempts to land a muskie, it thrashes wildly within the net. These behemoths boast brute power. on the New, below Clayton I had two, 3-fish days last year and at least three, 2-fish days. And I am only able to fish, at most, twice a month for them." Where Muskellunge Dwell Williams related that muskies prefer slow-moving pools with depths of at least four feet that offer shallow, well oxygenated water nearby. Given the many rapids and riffles on the lower New, this means that muskies poten- tially can inhabit every pool from below Claytor Lake to the West Vir- ginia line. FEBRUARY 2010 "I can't look at a pool and state that muskies are in there," explained Williams. "I've been fooled many times before. And, certainly, some pools are going to have more muskies than others. One thing that complicates matters is that the fish don't seem to have requirements about the amount of rock or wood cover present." However, during the winter, muskies (like smallmouths) tend to concentrate in wintering holes. As temperatures drop, more fish can be found in one spot than at any other time, said the biologist. He has even observed as many as 15 of these fish in one pool during a winter electro fishing survey. But when the repro- ductive period begins (and muskies do successfully spawn on the lower New) these members of the pike fam- ily widely disperse as they head to spawning areas. The New contains such plants as water willow, elodea, eel grass, star grass, and curly-leaf pondweed, and a misconception I had about muskies is that they often take up position near such vegetation. Williams said that the fish are just as likely, if not more so, to be found near rock or wood cover, but, again, water depth is the most important factor. khove: DGIF Fisheries biologists electro fishing and tagging muskie on Burke Lake. Below: Joe Williams with a trophy muskie that he caught on the lower New River. Management Efforts From Fields Dam downstream to the West Virginia state line on the New River and Claytor Lake, only one muskie per day can be kept, and a minimum length restriction of 42 inches exists. To receive a citation, an- glers must catch at least either a 40- inch long fish or one that weighs 15 pounds. Williams noted that one of the rea- sons for the restrictions is that, based on a review of the previous 10 years of citation data, anglers were keeping 54 percent of the citation muskies they caught. Many of those fish were in the 38- to 42-inch size range. "My feeling is that smallmouth anglers kept many of the fish because they happened to catch the biggest fish of their lives," he said. "My feel- ing also is that dedicated muskie an- glers would not keep a fish that size. I believe that the length restriction will increase the number of citation-sized fish." Williams related that muskies prefer slow-moving pools with depths of at least four feet that offer shallow, well oxygenated water nearby. How-to Tactics For muskies, Joe Williams relies on three categories of lures: >- Large in-line spinners up to 12 inches long. A good example is the Mepps Muskie Killer. 5^ Ten-inch or so jerkbaits, like Suicks, which can dive, dart, and flutter. >- Glide baits which can be made to walk the dog underwater and which can sink to any depth. Hell- hounds, which measure 8 to 9 inches and weigh 3/2 ounces, are good examples. Obviously, these lures create a huge splash when they splat down, which Williams said does not deter a muskie from striking. Indeed, the racket apparently can excite a fish into hitting. These lures displace a 26 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFiShVA.com jf •w'^^Tffi. t^» Facts About Esox masquinongy • In Virginia and other southern states, few people eat muskies, as they con- tain a number of Y-shaped bones. Northern anglers, though, find the fil- lets delicious and cook the flesh until the bones largely break down. Muskies spawn in the spring when the water temperature reaches the low to mid-50s. Female muskies produce well over 20,000 eggs and as many as 180,000. Males do not make beds; instead, the male fertilizes the female as they swim about at night in shallow water. Eggs attach to whatever random de- bris they fall against and hatch be- tween 8 and 14 days. Both sexes mature when they are about three years old and reach some 20 inches long. Streamlined like a missile with a white belly, the fish exhibits a light green to olive-brown back, which grows darker over time. Sides have dark vertical bars (compared to the chain-like markings of Virginia's na- tive, chain pickerel) which lighten as the fish ages. Below: Muskie lures are often eight or more inches long, like these hard plastic plugs, or heavy like the Mepps Musky Killer spinner at bottom which weighs P/s ounces. great deal of water as they are re- turned and often at the end of the retrieve, many anglers will make a figure 8 at boat side, which some- times serves to convince a reluctant fish to smash the artificial. Rounding out Williams' arsenal is 18/80 Power Pro line, 130-pound test fluorocarbon leader, a heavy duty baitcasting reel, and a Batson Rainshadow RX7 rod designed and given to Joe by Roanoke's Duane Richards. Richards said he designed it with fly rod guides to limit the rod tip's weight, and spiral wrapped the guides to make the rod stable when an angler fights big fish. * * * * On an outing with Williams to the lower New, I experienced just how intoxicating muskie fishing can be. The biologist motored his craft to a calm backwater and began methodi- cally chunking a jumbo jerkbait to- ward the shoreline. An hour or so after the excursion began, a muskie erupted on the bait, sending spumes everywhere. After a lively battle, Joe brought the fish to the boat where I netted the wildly thrashing creature. I received a charge from just cor- ralling that fish, some 40 inches long! I can only imagine what madness, what obsessive streak to go after this gamefish, might overtake em angler who regularly catches muskies. D Bruce Ingrain has authored many guide books, most recenth/ Fly and Spin Fisliing for River Smallmoutlis ($19.25). Contact him at heJngrainCJ'juno.com for more information. inia's Eirs Wintergreen residents choose proactive measures to coexist with black bears. by Jaime L. Sajecki Wintergreen Resort, a resi- dential and vacation community nestled against the Blue Ridge Parkway in Nelson County, is a place where it is sometimes hard to tell where the for- est ends and the real estate begins, es- pecially if you are a bear. Prompted by a series of break-ins by bears to re- sort homes in 2007 and the removal or euthanasia of nine bears over two years, Wintergreen residents decided to take action to make theirs a com- munity where both people and bears could coexist. Wintergreen Property Owners Association staff and Wintergreen police began cooperating with De- partment (DGIF) biologists and law enforcement officers on measures to curtail the bear-related problems oc- curring at the resort. Public refuse fa- cilities were secured and homeown- ers were advised on managing trash and bird feeders. And to increase bear awareness by residents and visi- tors, the Wintergreen Nature Foun- dation hosted a seminar given by DGIF on black bears, with focus on preventing further negative interac- tions. Fueled by a strong desire to pre- vent future conflicts, Wintergreen residents Sarah and Robert Scott founded the Wintergreen Bear Smart program. After reading about the Bear Smart effort in British Columbia in the book Living with Bears: A Practi- cal Guide to Bear Country by Linda Masterson, the Scotts decided to start their own Bear Smart community. The Wintergreen Bear Smart pro- gram is governed by a seven-person ©Bill Lea council, made up of full-time resi- dents. The council assessed the con- ditions that were contributing to the habituation of bears to people such as bird feeding and unsecured garbage. Another important task was to gain the cooperation of other Wintergreen community organizations to support the new Bear Smart program. The success that the Bear Smart program has experienced can be seen in the numbers. Since 2007, the num- ber of bear incidents has dropped by over 80%, and those resulting in damage to homes or property have decreased by over 90%. In 2009, a few bears were seen and at least one win- dow screen was damaged, but ha- rassment by Wintergreen police proved effective. No traps were set and no bears were euthanized. So, how did this community begin their road to successful and harmo- nious coexistence of humans and bears? To begin the process, con- cerned Wintergreen residents met oyfim unity with the local DGIF district wildlife biologist to discuss the Bear Smart program. Then, by following Bear Smart guidelines, they established the Bear Smart Council and met with each of the various boards at Winter- green to explain the program and so- licit cooperation. From these meet- ings, the council received full commit- ment from the various boards, includ- ing the Wintergreen Property Owners Association Board, which had already begun to minimize conflicts at trash disposal sites. The next step focvised on media outreach and programs for local groups to promote community- wide efforts. Another major step occurred when the property owners association passed resolutions requiring home- owners to stop feeding birds between April 1 and December 1 and banned outside garbage cans unless they were bear-proof. The council request- ed that the association purchase bear- proof containers for public-use areas, in addition to the large compactors al- ready on-site. Other proactive measures taken by the Wintergreen community included record-keeping by Wintergreen police on bear incidents and sightings, and immediate response by the police cie- partment to all bear incidents. The Wintergreen Property Owners Asso- ciation agreed to pay for and put up signs, as well as post information on their Web site concerning bear activity in the area. Wintergreen Partners, Inc. provided garbage management and bear literature to arriving resort guests. They also show the Depart- ment's DVD, Living with Black Bears in Virginia, on the in-house TV. In addi- tion to no longer selling bird food from April to December, the Winter- green Nature Foundation published a special brochure on black bears that includes precautions when encoun- tering bears in the wild and around homes. The foundation also has the black bears DVD available for view- ing by visitors. When asked to provide advice for communities that might want to start a Bear Smart program of their own, the Scotts offer the following tips: • It must be a citizens' effort to en- gage the various entities who have a stake in managing the bear prob- lem in the community. • The education of community members regarding the habitua- tion of bears is essential. • It is important to not assign blame for the problem to various people or agencies and, rather, just deal with the facts on what is happen- ing and what would solve the problem. Also, an assessment of community conditions (found at http: / /www. bear smart, com /becoming-bear- smart /community /bear-hazard- assessments) was reported along with recommendations to each com- munity entity. What does the future hold for human-bear relationships on this 11,000-acre community on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains? The Bear Smart Council pledges to continue to educate the community regarding program progress and bring awareness to continuing prob- lems. The Wintergreen Property Owners Association will continue to send out letters to residents yearly re- minding them of their responsibili- ties, enforce bird feeding and trash regulations, and keep DGIF up-to- date on non-compliance or illegal feeding activities. The Department will continue to support this program and community by providing educa- tion and enforcement as needed. The Bear Smart Council, resi- dents, and all Wintergreen entities understand that the Bear Smart pro- gram will be an ongoing effort with continuing challenges due to the constant influx of new residents and guests. However, they feel that the reward — being able to live in a com- munity surrounded by the beauty of the natural world and associated wildlife, with little to no conflict — is worth the challenge. All residents of Virginia living in bear country can benefit from follow- ing a few simple guideliiies to reduce bear attractants around their homes. View tips and guidelines by watch- ing the video. Living with Black Bears in Virginia, on the DGIF Web site (www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/ bear/). To learn about becoming a Bear Smart Community, first contact this Department for site-specific as- sistance and recommendations, and visit the Get Bear Smart Society Web site: www.bearsmart.com. D Jaime Sajecki is the bear biologist for tlic Depart- ment of Game and Inland Fisheries. rg BEAR SMART COMMUNITY Help us Keep our Bears Wild SMART Wintofj^ I llVi&l 1 1 J _1 IMJ JOMmA 2010 Outdoor Calendar of Events Unless otherwise noted, for current information and registration on workshops go to the "Upcoming Events" page on our Web site at www.HuntFishVA.com or call 804- 367-7800. February 12-15: 2010 Great Backyard Bird Count. For more information: www.audubon.org / gbbc or www.birdsource.org / gbbc. February 13: Grouse season closes. February 25, 27, March 4, 6, 9: Photographing Winters Wonders with Lynda Richardson at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond. Go to www.lewisginter.org or call (804) 262-9887, x322. February 26-28: Western Virghiia Sport Show, Augusta Expoland, Fish- ersville. For more information: www.westernvasportshow.com. February 27: Rabbit season closes. April 3: Trout Heritage Day. April 3: Kids Fishing Heritage Day, Graves Mountain Lodge. Starts 9:00 a.m. For more information call (540)923-4231. April 3: Youth Spring Turkey Hunt Day. For ages 15 and younger. April 10: Spring turkey season opens. April 17-18: Virginia Fly Fishing Festi- val, Waynesboro; wwrw.vaflyfishing festival.org. April 15, 17, 22, 24, 27: An Introduc- tion to Flower Photography with Lynda Richardson at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Call (804) 262-9887, x322. or go to www.lewisginter.org. □ RCt^' by Beth Hester Kayak Fishing: Tlte Complete Guide by Cory Routh 2009 No Nonsense Fishing Guides www.nononsenseguides.com w w w. ru thlessfishing . com 520-547-2462 "I find kayak fishing more than appealing for many reasons. From conservation, to affordability, to portability, kayak fislung has ma)ni advantages. " - Cory Routh In the month of February, it often seems as if spring will never come. Yet hidden beneath the icy cold, signs of burgeoning life are everywhere. This is a great time for the angler to inventory gear, replace or repair es- sential equipment, and dream about new fishing experiences and destina- tions. So if you've never contemplat- ed kayak fishing, Cory Routh's fully illustrated guide to kayak fishing will have you itching to get out on the water and close to the action. Routh is not only an author, he is a seasoned fishing guide with many years of kayak angling experience in both salt and fresh waters. He also happens to have a degree in marine biology. There is a wealth of informa- tion in this entertaining how-to vol- ume, and Routh's encouraging, con- genial voice flows across every page. He traverses every aspect of kayak fishing: conservation, safety, rigging, paddling and maneuvering, car top- puig, and trip planning. Routh shares some of his favorite fishing locations and includes an in- valuable section of resources helpful to both veteran and novice kayak an- glers. He covers techniques for fight- ing and landing fish from a kayak, and using drift to best advantage by employing drag anchors and drift chutes. He illustrates how to avoid the dreaded "sleigh ride effect" and shows how to stay put in shallow wa- ters via a strategically placed stake- out pole. Virginia is blessed with countless venues that are kayak fishing friend- ly. Seated close to the surface of the water in a well-rigged kayak, waiting patiently for a strike, gives anglers a fresh perspective on fishing ... one well worth considering come spring. Biologists Identify Over 200 Ecologically Healthy Virginia Streams by Paula Neely Surprisingly, at a time when there is so much bad news about the environ- ment, biologists have discovered more than 200 ecologically healthy streams and creeks throughout Vir- ginia, including about 30 streams that are exceptionally healthy, and more are yet to be identified. According to Greg Garman, di- rector of the Center for Environmen- tal Studies at Virginia Common- wealth University, an unexpectedly high number of Virginia's stream and river segments assessed since 2004 — up to 22 percent in some water- sheds — are ecologically and biologi- cally robust. "These healthy streams represent a sigmficant natural legacy for the commonwealth and should be conserved using every tool at our disposal," he said. 30 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com Identifying healthy waters is part of Virginia's new Healthy Waters ini- tiative to raise awareness about the need to protect the ecological integri- ty and diversity of living resources in streams and creeks before they be- come impaired. The initiative is man- aged by the Center for Environ- mental Studies at Virginia Com- monwealth University and the Vir- ginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, in coordination with the Virginia Department of Environ- mental Quality, the Virginia Depart- ment of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), and the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program. Using data that includes infor- mation about fish communities, aquatic insects, in-stream habitat, and vegetation along stream banks in the riparian zones, streams are com- pared to virtual reference streams and ranked by the Interactive Stream Assessment Resource (INSTAR). De- veloped by the Center for Environ- mental Studies, INSTAR is a free, in- teractive online stream database available to the public. Healthy Virginia streams include sections of well-known natural treas- ures such as: • The Clinch River, with more species of endangered and rare freshwater mussels than any- where else in the world; • The Roanoke drainage, known for the most distinctive freshwa- ter fish communities on the Al- tantic Slope of the United States; • Dragon Run, one of the most pristine streams in the Chesa- peake area. Healthy sections of other lesser known streams have also been iden- tified in the eastern half of the state, where most of the assessments have been conducted so far. Garman said streams in Virginia will continue to be assessed and added to the data- base as resources become available. Brian Roosa, who is the aquatic wildlife diversity biologist for the DGIF, calls INSTAR "... a great tool, and one that's getting more robust all the time." He estimates that an addi- tional 10,000 records are coming into the database soon, all of which help managers prioritize focal areas for fisheries management work. "IN- STAR serves as an excellent backdrop to species range maps and helps you better pinpoint where resources could be applied," he adds. According to Rick Hill, DCR planning and policy manager, by using stream assessments to priori- tize protection efforts where they will do the most good and integrating protection into land-use decision- making and voluntary conservation efforts, Virginians can reduce the number of streams that will become degracied and avoid costly rehabilita- tion efforts. Hill said protecting healthy streams requires a holisHc approach that addresses in-stream habitat, stormwater runoff, invasive species, and natural stream flow. 20 i 1 f, £ 1 J3 1 X c ll Si 11 £ 5 z 13 LEGEND % HEALTHY STRUMA HtALTHV WATtHSHEDS The U. S. Environmental Pro- tection Agency has also established a national Healthy Watersheds pro- gram and has encourageci and fvmd- ed some of Virginia's pilot efforts. D For More Information: To find healthy streams in Virginia: http:/ / instar.vcu.edu • www.dcr.virginia.gov/healthy waters • www.epa.gov/healthywatersheds Exceptionally Healthy Virginia Streams Faucjuier County: Mill Run Fredericksburg: Claiborne Run Hanover and Henrico counties: Chickahominy River King and Queen County: Dragon Run and Cheney Bridge Swamp Tributary Loudoun County: Little River and Bull Run Madison County: Popham Run Prince William County: South Fork Quantico Creek Rappahannock County: Hazel River Richmond County: Totoskey Creek and North Fork Richardson Creek Stafford County: White Oak Run Suffolk County: Jones Swamp Tributary Sussex County: Stony Creek and Higgens Creek Lifetime Licenses Open the door to a lifetime of enjoyment in tlie great outdoors of Virginia witli a lifetime freshwater fishing, hunting or trout license! It's an investment that keeps on giving. For more information visit: httpy/www.HuntFishVA.coiti/forms/ lifetinie_Iicenses/instructioiis.html orcalM- (866) 721-6911 Report Wildlili^ Violations FEBRUARY 2010 31 I J /hen hunting season is over, a rlr good retriever has to stay busy. I have noticed that my collar does not fit as well as it used to before the holi- days and I have also noticed you hu- mans seem to do a little expanding around the middle as well. Since charity begins at home, I have taken it upon myself to be helpful to those in need by acting as a personal trainer for some of the delivery people in my neighborhood. The lady who carries a bag with letters in it and the man who drives a brown truck have put on more than a few pounds, I see. It is common knowledge, even among dogs, that staying active keeps one happier and more alert and I figured the least I could do was to get one of them moving a little faster each day to enhance their heart rate and make their life better. What might not be common knowledge is that I am greatly at- tracted to the female human and have been known on occasion to be somewhat forward in my display of affection. I'll just come out with it: If you are a female and we have never met, be prepared! I sometimes forgo an introduction, and may — with no warning — ^jump up and give you a big lick in the face. For some reason, this puts a few people off. I guess if you see a 90-pound black dog com- ing at you full bore, you may have some concerns about my intentions. For the record, I have never bitten anyone, but I can see that when you have a four-legged "Locomotive of Love" bearing down on you, it can be a little uiTuerving. But back to helping others. Al- ways trying to use my traits in a posi- tive fashion, I have developed a pro- gram that may help these hard-work- ing people shed some unwanted ex- cess. I thought I would try it out on the lady with the bag of letters first. When she shows up around 9:30 each morning I hide in one of the bushes around our house and watch her come down the street. Before we started our program, she walked at her normal, slow, methodical pace. When she got to the house, I would let her get all the mail through the door, then pop up and give her a quick, friendly WOOF! and then rush out to meet her — ^just to show my appreciation for her hard work. This always seemed to put her in run- ning mode and, for a big woman, she can move pretty well, even with that bag she carries acting like a drag parachute on a fuel dragster. Since she has started ?ni/ program, I see her measuring the distance from the street to the house and back to the street again. (It is good to see some- one taking their exercise seriously.) Then she sprints like a Virginia Tech fullback to the front door, deposits the mail in the mail slot, and hoofs it with a strong arm pumping motion back to the street. Sometimes, when I think she is not giving it her best, all I have to do is just step out from behind one of the bushes and she kicks it into an- other gear. It's a good 50 yards from the house to the street and I haven't been fast enough to kiss her yet. This has been going on for about a month now, and we can both see an improvement in her conditioning. She has cut about 2 seconds off her delivery time and 2 inches off her waistline. However, I believe she may have developed some kind of nervous facial tick. We are going to have to work on that. The point of all this is to remember that both ifoii and your dog need year- round exercise. Just limit it to the cooler times of the day for your dog, as the weather starts to warm. Keep a leg up, Luke Luke is a black Labrador retriever who spends his spare time hunting up good stories icith best friend Clarke C. Jones. You can contact Luke and Clarke at www.clarkecjones.com. DGIF members of the board, management staff, and hatchery personnel gathered along with Bath County lead- ers, state officials, and other supporters to celebrate com- pletion of the renovated fish hatchery at Coursey Springs in December. 32 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com Jj-JjjiJ by Ken and Maria Perrotte Fried Yellow Perch rellow perch, often called "ring perch" in Virginia, are closely related to the walleye— famous as fabulous table fare in the northern U.S. and Canada. Yellow perch are com- mon in the northern states, where ice fishermen often catch them by the bucketloads in winter, but they can also be caught in many tidal Virginia waters or in some deeper lakes, such as Moomaw. While not tasting exactly the same as walleye, yel- low perch have their own spectacular flavor, a taste many de- scribe as sweet. Early March is a good time to catch yellow perch, espe- cially in tidal waters, as they prepare for spawning. Check with your regional fisheries biologists for hotspots in your area. Yellow perch aren't very big; keepers typically range be- tween 8 and 11 inches. They're not slab-sided like crappie, but some people fillet them nevertheless. For us, though, they're such a taste treat that we clean them whole instead of risking meat to filleting. To clean them whole, remove the head, cutting vertically dovmward vwth a slight angle back. Stop the cut before going all the way through and pull the head forward. This usually re- moves the head and most of the viscera. Next, use a small, sharp fillet knife to make a single slice through the bottom of the fish toward the tail. Make a shallow slice along the top on each side of the long dorsal fin, then peel the skin off on both sides. The dorsal fin and many back bones are removed simply by grasping the dorsal fin at the rear and pulling it up and for- ward. You can remove the rib bones or not as you choose. The easiest way to remove them is to make a cut just behind the ventral fin and slice forward, following the backbone. Finally, use your fingernail or a brush to clean along the backbone, rinse, and pat dry. You're ready to cook. Note that we leave the tail on, breaded and fried with the fish. It's an edible snack that crunches like a thick potato chip— a fish and chip, all in one. Here's a "keep it simple" treat that creates a satisfying late winter supper, the big payoff after a day on the water. Ingredients * 10-12 yellow perch, cleaned whole (serves 2 or 3, depending on size offish) * One egg (or equivalent egg substitute) * y4 cup milk * About 2 cups canola or other light cooking oil (a little peanut oil added to the mix adds a unique flavor and a healthier, hotter frying blend) or enough oil to fill frying pan so that fish are mostly immersed. FEBRUARY 2010 * Your favorite fish breading (Note, the delicate sweetness of yellow perch can be overpowered by many of the "Cajun" spicy breadings or those with too much lemon-pepper. One breading that accents the flavor of the fish is Progresso's Italian-style Bread Crumbs. House of Autry's basic breading also works well.) * A pinch of pepper Cooking While the oil heats until it is almost smoking in an electric skillet or a stovetop frying pan, whisk together the egg and milk in a wide, shallow bowl. Drop in the fish and ensure they are well coated. Add your breading and pepper to a small, thick paper bag. Drop the fish into the breading, 4 to 6 at a time, and shake vigorously— ensuring they are well covered. Remove and add to the oil. Use tongs to turn the fish over once they begin turning golden brown. It only takes a couple of minutes of cooking on each side. Do not overcook! Remove to a plate and allow fish to drain excess oil on paper towels. The perch, when properly cooked, easily separates from the backbone into thick, flavorful pieces. Check the portions being given to any small children to verify that all bones have been removed. Sides * Creamy coleslaw. Use a sharp French knife to slice and then chop fresh cabbage. Some coarse grated carrots and broccoli also may be added. Add commercial slaw dressing (we use Marzetti), some coarse ground black pepper, and a dash of cider vinegar. The slaw mix keeps well for a few days in the refrigerator. * Sliced tomatoes (big, ripe and flavorful). This is where freezing some fish to fry once Hanover tomatoes hit the vegetable stands can pay off in side dish appeal. * Garnish with a slice or two of fresh lemon slices. D A full-bodied lager or a nice German-style pilsner is hard to beat with fried yellow perch. The Department's "Panfish Preparation and Filleting" DVD, which includes "Squirrel Skinning, Quick and Easy" is available for $8.00. Order online at www.Hunt FishVA.com or send check payable to "Treasurer of Vir- ginia," to DGIF Catalog, P.O. Box 11104, Richmond, VA 23230. 33 by Lynda Richardson Hiding in Plain Sight I J / hen looking for something to WW photograph you can always count on nature to provide interesting themes. Take camouflage, for instance. Animals use every advantage they can to protect or hide themselves from predators or prey and the simple premise of camouflage, or hiding in plain sight, has made for some very in- teresting and creative adaptations. Insects are some of my favorite camoviflage experts. A walking stick, looking like a stick with twiggy legs, simply has to move slowly, sway gen- tly in the breeze, or hold still on a limb to blend into its surroundings. Moths, mottled the pattern and color of bark, find safety perched on the side of a similarly marked tree. Various spi- ders, brightly colored to match flow- ers, hide incognito amid the petals ready to pounce on unsuspecting prey. Some insects have even developed ex- tremely elaborate camouflage mim- icking flowers, leaves, and even the eyes of larger creatures. When you start looking around you will be amazed by how many creatures use the camouflage trick. A spring peeper clinging tightly to a cat- tail could easily be missed and you would have a hard time locating a green snake in a tangle of cat briar. Drab field or song sparrows easily fade into the undergrowth as they scratch for food, and a sleepy screech owl is a rare find perched for a nap on the side of a tree. All of the animals I've been talking about so far are small, so it seems un- derstandable that they can hide easily. But what about something large like a black bear or a white-tailed deer? Camouflage works for the big guys as well. I have seen what I thought was a rock suddenly turn into a very real black bear. (Boy, was that a surprise!) Even deer, with their earthy colored coats, can blend perfectly into a sur- rounding woodland or field. So if you are looking for a differ- ent photographic challenge, I would suggest that you try to photograph animals going about their daily lives using camouflage. Not only will it be fun to look for subjects, it will also be interesting to see if you can photo- graph them and keep them hidden in plain sight! Enjoy! D You are invited to submit one to five of your best photographs to "Image of the Month," Vir- ginia Wildhfe Magazine, P.O. Box 11104, 4010 West Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23230-1104. Send original shdes, super high-quah'ty prints, or high-res jpeg, tiif, or raw files on a disk and include a self-addressed, stamped envelope or other shipping method for return. Also, please include any pertinent information regarding how and where you captured the image and what camera and settings you used, along with your phone number. We look forward to seeing and sharing your work with our readers. Sometimes a subject will be hiding in plain sight. This large buck was totally hidden before his set of large antiers gave him away; otherwise, you would never hove known he was there. llmiw^(!j(f^iMiM!ii^ Congratulations to Scott M. Baugher of Elkton for his great illustration of camouflage! Scott spied this ruffed grouse (can you see it?) in the George Washington Notional Forest near Elkton. Scott used a Minolta Maxxum 7000, 35mm, SLR, film camera, 210mm zoom lens with macro, ISO 400, 1/1 25th, f4. 0. Way to spot them, Scott! 34 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com ■"w"^ ^T-^ir ▲ V Outdoor Ca\i 2009 Limited Edition Virginia Wildlife Collector's Knife Our 2009 Collector's knife has once again been customized by Buck Knives and features a wild turkey in full strut. The elegant, solid cherry box features a forest scene. Knives and boxes, made in USA. ltem#VW-409 $85.00 each (plus $7.25 S&H) 2008 Virginia Wildlife Collector's Knife Produced by Buck Knives, this knife features a red-tailed hawk engraving, augmented by a natural woodgrain handle and gold lettering. A distinctive, solid cherry box features birds of prey. Item # VW-408 $90.00 each (plus $7.25 S&H) Fawn and Turtles Plush Collectibles From mountains to the coast, our plush collectibles will remind you of your favorite Virginia habitat. (Sizes range from 5" to 9" long) ltem#VW-519 ltem#\A/V-518 White-tailed Fawn SeaTurtleSet(2) $9.95 each $9.95 each Habitat at Home Check out this 2009 DVD that features several types of home habitat gardens and interviews with the homeowners who created them. ltem#VW-254 $12.00 each To Order visit the Department's Web site at: www.HuntFishVA.com or call (804) 367-2569. Please allow 3 to 4 weeks for delivery. ViRGIMlDLi A dog-gone good deal! Order Online www. HuntFish VA . com With just the click of a mouse you can order 12 months of Virginia Wildlife magazine on- line using your VISA or Master- Card, and have it delivered to your home for just $12.95 a year. That's a 73% savings off the cover price. While you're there, don't forget to check out the Virginia Wildlife Out- door Catalog for that unique and special gift. Magazine subscription-related calls onlv 1-800-710-9369 Twelve issues for just $ 1 2.95 ! AU other calls to (804) 367- 1 000 Visit our Web site at wwvv.HuntFishVA.com Virginia Nongame Wildlife Program Nongame Tax Checkoff Fund -H* Celebrate the 28th anniversary of Vir- ginia's Nongame Wildlife Program by helping to support essential research and management of Virginia's native birds, fish, and other nongame animals. If you are due a tax refund from the Commonwealth of Virginia, you can con- tribute to the Virginia Nongame Wildlife Program by simply marking the appropri- ate place on this year's tax checkoff, on the Virginia state income tax form. If you would like to make a cash dona- tion directly to the Virginia Nongame Wildlife Program using a VISA or Master- Card, you can visit the Department's Web site or mail a check made out to Virginia Nongame Program and mail it to Virginia Nongame Program, 4010 W. Broad St., Richmond, VA 23230-1 104.